4 FM quick reads on ADA
1. Account For Disabilities In Emergency Plan
Today's tip is to consider disabilities in preparing an emergency exit plan. Could everyone who uses your building safely evacuate without using stairs in an emergency?
Not counting individuals with obvious physical disabilities, consider individuals with a heart condition, a breathing condition, a panic disorder, or a hearing loss. Or perhaps a young person who just had surgery and is on crutches works on the 30th floor of the building. People come in and out without disclosing much, if any, information about their needs.
A competent professional who understands the needs of individuals with all types of disabilities, as well as the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), can collect information about emergency-alarm systems and emergency-communications systems systematically during a thorough ADA evaluation.
Managers are ready for the next step — education and communication — once they know the emergency components a building will support, including areas of rescue assistance; emergency-communication systems that meet the needs of persons with hearing disabilities; visual alarms where required; identification of assistive equipment, such as evacuation chairs; and an emergency-response team with floor wardens.
What planners need to know is, "Would you need assistance in evacuating the building if the elevators were shut down?" That question does not intrude into anyone's personal disability or business, but it begins the dialogue. But managers should preface that question with a great deal of education and outreach about the efforts to ensure the safety of the building and its occupants.
The next big step is planning and implementing regular drills. Arguments abound among employers and tenants about scheduled fire drills, and many people leave the building shortly before the alarms are scheduled to go off. For this reason, managers should consider periodic, unplanned drills.
If this all seems a bit overwhelming, it can be, especially for managers more accustomed to dealing with facility issues. The solution is a planning process that includes sufficient time, along with proper attention to detail, care, and diligence.
2. New ADA standards in effect for 2012
Today's tips come from Joan Stein, the president and CEO of Accessibility Development Associates Inc. She warns building managers to be aware of changes to ADA standards that took effect on March 15 of this year after being published in 2010.
The 2010 ADA Standards apply to both existing buildings for readily-achievable barrier removal, renovations, alterations as well as new construction. The complete set of the 2010 ADA Standards can be found at www.ada.gov. Since you can no longer use the 1991 ADA Standards, these are the comprehensive requirements for all title II and title III facilities.
The toilet requirement has been changed from an absolute 18 inches from the side wall or partition to a range of 16-18 inches from the side wall or partition in a toilet room or accessible toilet stall. For ambulatory stalls, the requirement has been changed to 15-17 inches from the sidewall or partition. That's the good news.
The requirements for clear floor space at a toilet have changed significantly. You can no longer place a lavatory within the clear floor space requirement for a side transfer. Look to Chapter 6 (604) for clear floor space requirements for toilets in hotel bathrooms as well as accessible toilet stalls in restrooms.
The requirement for lifts at pools and spas has been extended to January 31, 2013, primarily to allow time to clarify whether a pool lift must be "secured" to the pool deck. It comes down to the terminology that the ADA Standards cover "fixed" elements - in other words, if you turn the room upside down, whatever doesn't fall is covered. Many facilities have purchased portable lifts that are put away and brought out to the pool (or spa) on request by a guest with a disability. The standards state that the lift must be in place and available for independent use (paraphrase) during the hours that the pool is available to all users.
This issue is yet to be decided. My professional recommendation is to continue whatever efforts you have been making to purchase a lift. If your pool is existing (and you are not doing any renovations or new construction), your obligation is to perform readily achievable barrier removal. If it is new construction, I believe the lift will be required to be fixed. Remember also that all barrier removal efforts are eligible for tax deductions.
3. ADA: Ensuring Restroom Accessibility
I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is, ensuring restroom accessibility.
Restrooms in institutional and commercial buildings remain common areas for accessibility challenges because of the many components related to accessibility, including doors, door hardware, and dispensers.
Managers first need to understand the individual accessibility standards that combine to produce an accessible restroom. Misapplying these standards and requirements or installing products incorrectly not only makes a restroom non-accessible for individuals with disabilities. It also will heighten the probability of lawsuits alleging discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, and state codes.
Remodeling and new construction projects usually trigger the application of new accessibility standards. If a remodeling or new construction project is not compliant, it is hard to defend the reasons for including newly installed features, such as soap dispensers, that are not compliant. The cost to install a soap dispenser incorrectly is usually the same as the cost to install a compliant dispenser.
Diligent managers do their homework when remodeling restrooms. Understanding accessibility requirements will result in the job being done right the first time.
Specifying compliant products and paying careful attention to installation details will result in restrooms that meet federal accessibility requirements of the ADA accessibility guidelines (ADAAG), as well as state codes. Compliance with ADA is a minimum standard. If a state standard requires a greater level of accessibility than ADAAG, the state standard applies.
4. ADA: Debunking Compliance Myths
I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is, debunking ADA compliance myths.
The first enforceable provision of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for public accommodations and commercial facilities began in 1992. Since then, maintenance and engineering managers have had to remove barriers to access in all existing facilities. Readily-achievable barrier removal continues to be an ongoing obligation.
Still, for the past 20 years, thousands of ADA cases have been filed in federal courts across the United States, as well as through the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the federal agency responsible for enforcing ADA standards for facilities. What accounts for failure to comply with ADA requirements after 20 years? There are a variety of myths and misunderstandings.
• Code. Some managers believe that since a local code official has not had to do an inspection, the facility is compliant. But code officials never inspect existing facilities for accessibility. That is because building codes do not have the same provision for "readily-achievable barrier removal" as ADA. What's more, code officials are not empowered to enforce ADA.
• Costs. Some managers assume it will be too costly to comply, so they do nothing. But it is a mistake to automatically assume the costs will be too high without breaking the process down and identifying barriers that can be removed over a period of time. Also, under Internal Revenue Service code, businesses of any size can take an expense deduction of up to $15,000 per year for costs of removing barriers in facilities.
• Grandfathering. Some managers believe their buildings are grandfathered because they were built before ADA took effect. In fact, all buildings where goods or services are sold or provided have been required to comply with ADA since 1992. There is no grandfathering provision.